Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, after a two week break I’m back on my road bike and glad to be riding again. I can’t believe I spent two weeks not riding - it was a struggle because I missed biking so much. Some of the break was vacation related but the other part of my break was self-imposed to get some healing time for some bike-related bruising. I realized the smart thing to do was to take some time off, heal and then start over again and see if I can figure out why I had troubles.
Here are the theories of what might have happened to cause my discomfort gathered by bicyclists, my doctor, the people at my bike shop and my own intuition: 
1. I’ve been slightly misaligned on my bike all along and over time irritation and bruising built up. Perhaps the saddle is the wrong size for my bum.
2. My bike got bumped of adjustment therefore I am sitting the bike differently.
3. As I’ve gotten to be a better rider (faster, more aggressive on hills etc.) I’ve changed my position on the bike (ie: leaning more forward etc.).
4. I hit a bad bump on one of my rides and injured myself. Subsequent rides aggravated the injury.
5.I switched from riding mostly trails to some long road rides of 15 miles and more. Road riding is a little different than riding flat bike trails and though my bike was working for trail riding it’s not set up quite right for longer road rides.
6. A combination of all or some of the above
Before I left for vacation Owen and I came up with a plan of what to do to deal with my bike situation. First, I would have my sit bones measured to see if I’m riding the correct size saddle. If so, I would take my bike back to Valley Bike and Ski (my shop - love them) to verify that my bike is still set up the way it is supposed to be. If so I would ask them for recommendations of how to move ahead. Then I would get back into riding slowly going on short rides and build up to longer ones and see what happens.
Before I left for our trip I had my sit bones measured by a Specialized bike fitter person at Erik’s Bike Shop, the local chain of shops that carry Specialized bikes and gear. My sit bones are average so my saddle size is likely correct. This information somewhat rules out #1 as the reason I’ve had trouble but not completely as there are so many saddles out there to fit the wide variety of butts.
Selle Royale saddle that I've been riding. Surprisingly comfortable even though it's small.
This saddle hasn't given me any sit bone pain. It does not have a groove or cutaway in front, though, and may be contributing to my bruising.
On Saturday, the day after we got home from vacation, I hauled my Giant Avail into the shop and explained to John, the assistant manager, what’s been going on. John said he’d check my bike over and suggested I try a saddle, the Curva, that a lot of their female customers like. It’s somewhat padded and though it does not have a physical cutaway that many recommend it has an “anatomical groove (which) properly distributes weight and eliminates hot spots.” I told John to go ahead and put the saddle on my bike and I’d be back on Monday to pick it up. John figures, by the way, that I’m riding somewhat differently now that I’m on the road and mentioned that many bikers do well with under 30 mile rides but start to notice comfort problems once they start longer rides, especially road rides. Knowing this I don’t feel so alone.

The Serfas Curva saddle I'm trying. Much more padded all over, it also has a groove in the front.
It's also wider in the back and shaped quite differently than my Selle Royale.

Monday afternoon I picked up my road bike. John verified that the bike was still set up correctly and I rode 4.6 miles on a flat bike trail with Owen that evening. I pedaled at a good speed (averaged 12.4 mph), felt the wind flow over me, smelled the lovely, fresh, country air and was surprised that I was still strong enough to pedal up a gentle hill out of my saddle the whole way. It felt so good to be on my bike at last!
As for the new saddle, I can feel that more pressure rides on my sit bones with this saddle. I’m not 100% sure this saddle is going to fix things for me as I had a little soreness, perhaps chafing, in the front. I can deal with chafing, I think, but not the bruising I had. Also a few hours after the ride I still had a little discomfort in my sit bones. It’s hard to tell if I was sore because I haven’t ridden or because of the saddle. Today my bum and other bits feel fine and I’m taking the day off from riding. Wednesday or Thursday I’ll hop back on for a short ride of 5 or 6 miles. I plan to gradually increase my distance with each ride and take a day off between them to rest.

I’ll take this a day at a time and see what happens. There are many options out there and though I’ve been really discouraged about this whole bruised bum and bits thing I’m determined to figure this out and be back in the saddle again. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Imagination Monday

Now that it's Monday and Owen's back at work our vacation is officially over and I'm struggling to figure out what to do with my first day back at home. There is so much to do. Laundry. Gardening. Writing. Office work. The kitchen counter is covered with vacation stuff, the dogs need a walk, I need to get to the bike shop and still haven't made my bed or put away my suitcase.

Rose at her post

Rose and Ryan, however, are having no trouble figuring out what to do this morning. They have turned our house into a Nerf Gun war zone. They've turned gates into barriers, blankets into bunkers, and are running around wearing safety glasses we purchased yesterday at Menards and are yelling things like, "temporary truce!", "no fire!" and "start!", while they shoot Nerf bullets at each other. I'm not a huge fan of shooting Nerf guns but I will say this, the kids are using their imaginations (perhaps somewhat in response to seeing the Northfield Arts Guild production of The Phantom Tollbooth yesterday, a play based on the book in which a bored young Milo learns to use his imagination and has great adventures.), they are not picking on each other and they're having a good time. Plus, they haven't turned on the TV all morning. They haven't said they are bored and haven't turned  on any sort of electronic game device. They may be making a mess of the already messy house but, you know what? they are having a great time and I'm okay with that. And I think I may just join in on the fun.

Ryan is ready for action

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Flying Family Vacation

Sunday we loaded up our 1955 Piper Pacer, took off from our airpark home and spent five hours cruising along at 7,500 feet above the ground to Middletown, Ohio. What’s in Middletown, Ohio? It’s the location of this year’s Short Wing Piper Club Convention and it’s where we’re spending our family vacation. This summer marks our eighth summer vacation spent with our Short Wing Family, a group of aviators who love vintage Piper airplanes, at the Short Wing Piper Club Convention

2010 - Rose and Ryan strapped in and ready to go to Middletown, Ohio.
Before you think we have some big fancy airplane, let me tell you that our Piper Pacer is not big or fancy. Inside we have less room than you would have in a VW Bug, the avionics (radios and navigation gear) are basic, the cruise speed relatively slow (about 123 mph) and the purchase price far less than most new Sport Utility Vehicles. We bought the plane eight years ago because we wanted an inexpensive, economic family airplane. New planes were out of reach for our budget so we bought a “classic” and as with classic cars, there’s a club for the people who own and love these planes and it’s this club that hosts a convention each year.
At these conventions we gather to share information about our planes, visit with friends new and old (there are about 150 people here this year and about 50 planes) and see some local attractions. But for all of the local attractions, so far this week we visited the world’s largest indoor train exhibit at a place called EnterTrainment Junction and the National Museum of the US Air Force, it’s swimming in the hotel pool that always tops the list for my kids, Rose and Ryan.
Traveling with the kids has gotten oh so much easier since our first convention when Ryan was just one year old and still in diapers. In those days we had to pack diapers, snacks, toys, all sorts of stuff to keep the kids entertained on the flight. Now that Ryan is eight and Rose nearly 11, they pack their own bags (Ryan was so excited he packed his bag four days before departure), get in the plane, strap in and settle in for the flight. Our flight here this year was just about perfect with tailwinds pushing us along in the air and no wind on the ground when it was time to land. As I flew the first leg of our trip and looked down at the fields and cities below I remembered that flying is something special that I do, that my family gets to do together. And I feel really fortunate to be a pilot, to have a husband who flies, too, to have an airplane and, mostly, kids who are willing to go wherever we fly them.

Rose and Ryan back in 2006 on our way to Kingston, Ontario.
Note that Ryan is holding his bathing suit so he can hit the hotel's pool as soon as possible.
It’s so much fun to look back at the pictures from the first convention to now and see how the kids have grown, to reminisce about the people we met each year, the things we saw, the fun we had. Next year the convention takes place in Spearfish, South Dakota. You can bet that we’ll be loading up our little Pacer again next year and find our way there.

Back in 2008 on our way to the Northern Exposure convention at Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin.
Where have SWPC Conventions taken us? All over the country and to places we wouldn’t have visited otherwise. Here’s a list of the convention sites since we started attending in 2003.

2009 - stopping for fuel on our way to Knoxville, Tennessee
2003 Springfield, Missouri
2004 Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
2005 Vancouver, Washington
2006 Kingston, Ontario, Canada
2007 Hutchinson, Kansas
2008 Cable, Wisconsin
2009 Knoxville, Tennessee
2010 Middletown, Ohio

A rainbow from the window of our Pacer, somewhere over Wisconsin. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Taking a Break

Owen just got back from his first group ride with the Northfield Bicycle Club. He had a great ride, 33 miles with an average of 16 mph and I’m so happy for him but, I confess, I’m also a little jealous because I didn’t get to ride with him. I’m not just jealous because he got to spend the morning with eight fit guys in bike shorts, it’s because going on a group ride has been one of my goals since I started cycling and I stayed home. And it’s not that staying home is all bad. In fact, I had a great morning and flew my airplane. The real issue is that I’m forced to sit on the sidelines for awhile. Why? because I have a sore bum and, well, other “girly parts” for lack of a better way to say it.
To be honest, talking about my sore “girly parts” is kind of embarrassing and I’ve wondered if I should blog about this at all. But most bicyclist deal with some soreness issues so I’m not alone and I’m hoping writing about mine will help someone else.
I’ve been riding my road bike, a Giant Avail, a lot since I got it in late March. Whether a long ride of 30 miles or a short one, my first 200 or so miles were pain free, something that pleased me a lot especially since I struggled with sit bone pain a lot last year when riding my hybrid, a Specialized Crossroads.
Then three weeks ago Owen and I took a 30 mile ride and I was a little sore afterwards. I was puzzled by it but figured I had some chafing. I applied Chamois Butt’r the next day and rode twice, once on my hybrid and once on my road bike. Still a little sore, I kept riding figuring the soreness would go away. It didn’t.
Fast forward to last Sunday. I rode 18 miles and was so uncomfortable during and after the ride that I decided it was time visit my OBGyn to make sure I didn’t have any female issues. Her verdict? No female issues. Just a lot of external and some internal bruising and swelling, the kind I would get if I fell on the top tube of my bike. She suggested taking a break from riding and giving myself some time to heal.
I’m talking to a few of my bicycling friends and my bike shop to see if they have any thoughts on what caused my problem and how to move forward from here.  So far everyone is supportive but somewhat baffled as to the cause. I have some theories, I’ll spell them out later, and some thoughts on what to do to ease back into bicycling after my break. But for now I am doing what my doctor told me to do - I’m taking a break from riding.
On a positive note this time off comes at a perfect time because we’re leaving on vacation, our annual flying trip to the Short Wing Piper Club convention, in a day and I won’t be able to ride anyway. And I read in Bicycling that taking a 7 to 10 day break mid-summer is a good thing to do to “stay sharp all summer” (Hit Refresh by Selene Yaeger).  But it’s been difficult knowing my bike is out in the garage and I’m not supposed to ride it, difficult to know Owen is hitting the roads and have great rides without me. As much as I am working to stay positive, I cried on the way home from my doctor appointment and have cried several times since.

My bike - ready and waiting for me to ride it again

I guess the tears mean I kind of like riding my bike. Yes, it’s true - for all the moments when riding has seemed too hard and for all of my complaints, my best times of summer so far have involved riding my bike, especially the rides with my family. I really can’t imagine not riding. But for now I need to give my body time to heal and I want to get ready for a great vacation. My bike will be ready and waiting for me when I get back.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mind my Ride

Owen and I went on an 18 mile ride yesterday to the nearby town of Lonsdale. It’s a decent ride with moderate hills and long stretches of flat. Owen’s ridden the route before but it was a first time for me and I always get a little anxious when we tackle a new stretch of road. On top of that, I hadn’t ridden in several days because of the weather and because I needed to give my body a rest.
I don’t know what a normal ride is for other bicyclists (the ones I see all look like they are having a good time of things). Owen doesn’t seem to be bothered by much of anything when he’s riding. He always in a happy place, it seems, says he’s having fun and tells me that he thinks of nothing but riding when he’s on his bike. I wish I had his brain sometimes. Mine doesn’t quit. Ever. Even when I’m asleep. There are moments when I’m riding when I am able to concentrate on just riding but most of the time my mind is going every which way and it often works against me, especially when I’m pushing my limits, especially when I’m trying something new.
I envy Owen and his able to focus and have fun on his rides. I want to get to that place where I’m concentrating and having fun on my bike but I’m so not there yet. I wonder, will I be able to focus on my riding with more practice? Will I be able to settle in and concentrating on, say, the hill ahead as I get more confident with my riding skills? I really wish I knew because right now I’m at the stage when I just want someone to hold my hand and tell me that I’m doing okay.
But  no one is here to hold my hand and I need both for riding anyway. So for now I keep riding and do the best I can to think happy thoughts as I work towards the goal of biking bliss. 
And now, just in case you wanted to know, here’s what it’s like to be inside my busy mind on a bike ride. Ready? Here we go...
Mile 0 - In the driveway. Excited to ride but also kind of nervous because I haven’t ridden in days. Mount my bike, clip in and take off with a smile on my face
Mile .5 - Happy that I have on my new Pearl Izumi Left and Right socks because they don’t have that extra sock fabric around my little toes so I’m not wiggling them as I ride.
Mile 1 - Dang, my crotch hurts even though I adjusted my saddle. Why, after 200 miles with the same saddle and shorts am I starting to have soreness issues?
Mile 1.5 - Dang, now my wrist hurts because I think saddle adjustment is putting too much pressure on my arms.
Miles 2 to 3 - cried for at least a mile because I hurt, because I didn’t feel capable, because I wanted someone to tell me things would be okay, because I wanted to quit.
Mile 3.1 - decided to keep going.
Mile 4 - managed The Big Hill quite well.
Mile 6 - hit a new-to-me road with some trepidation.
Mile 6.1 - hated the body-jarring cracks on the new-to-me road.
Mile 6.2 - stopped to check on a funny noise somewhere on bike’s front end.
Mile 6.3 - stopped again to switch my water bottles, figuring the big one was making the funny noise in the bottle cage.
Mile 6.5 - stopped to take off my jacket sleeves because I’m too hot.
Mile 6.6 - felt bad because frequent stops were ruining Owen’s average speed. Average didn’t matter to me at this point, I just wanted to finish.
Mile 6.8 - had a moment when drafting behind Owen felt easy and everything was good.
Mile 8 - arrived in Lonsdale. Realized it takes about 8 miles for me to settle down and really concentrate on riding my bike.
Mile 8 to 9 - meandered through town in search of a restroom. Found one at the ballpark and felt good for a moment because a ballplayer smiled at me. Felt remotely good looking at that moment (see Biking Babes discussion on www.lovingthebike.com for context).
Mile 9 - headed home feeling pretty positive about the trip home.
Mile 10 - saw someone mowing their lawn and wanted to get home and drive my lawn tractor. Or maybe do some weeding. Or go out to eat dinner.
Mile 11 - realized funny front end noise on bike is gone. Maybe it was the bike bottle. Or something that fell off along the road.
Mile 12 - drafted within inches of Owen’s wheel. Feeling competent and like hot biking babe now.
Mile 13 - freaking big hill. Am breathing hard. No longer feel like hot biking babe.
MIle 14 - saw another person mowing and really want to get home and mow or maybe get out my chainsaw and demolish something. Or both. Intermittent saddle soreness. Frustrated.
Mile 15 - figured I deserved chocolate for my bicycling efforts so asked Owen if he bought some when he got groceries. He didn’t. I started thinking about some other suitable reward. Like wine. A whole bottle.
Mile 16 - went really, really, fast down The Big Hill, about 30 mph! I am bicycling goddess!
Mile 17 to 18 - The home stretch. Feeling pretty good at this point though very slow and tired and somewhat sore. Still, I just rode 18 miles. I’m happy I did it. I’m happy I’m done.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy Songs for a Rainy Day

I planned to get up early and go on a nice long ride with Owen but two things happened that got in my way. One - I stayed up too late last night so slept in really late this morning. Two - by the time I got up it was raining like crazy.

I can't do anything about the rain. I'm hoping it clears up enough that I can get out and ride later today and log some miles towards my 50 miles of cycling per week goal. I could have done something about going to sleep earlier and waking earlier but I can't do anything about it now so will not beat myself up for it and let it go.

It's easier said than done though, this not beating myself up and letting things go, and between not riding and the weather I'm feeling a little low this morning. So, you know what I did? I turned on my iPod and played my "Happy Songs" playlist.

What's a "Happy Songs" playlist? A few months ago my friend told me to make up a playlist of songs that make me smile so I could play them when I'm feeling down. So I surfed through my tunes and created a playlist of songs that make me smile, that get me singing, that make me dance, that lift my mood.

The songs on my "Happy Songs" list are all over the place as far as style goes - but they all make me smile!

Here's a sampling:
Hey, Soul Sister - Train (first on my list, I always smile when I hear this song)
Say Hey (I Love You) -  All Rebel Rockers (rocking fun)
Ahla Menhom -  Ehab Tawfik (belly dance music. I have no idea what the words are)
The Hampster Dance Song - Hampton the Hamspter (makes me laugh)
Hangman's Reel - Karen Mueller (autoharp like you've never heard it before. Karen is my mandolin teacher)
Bobby Shafto - Bonnie Rideout (my kids ask me to sing this to them before they go to bed)
Guitar Town - Steve Earle (need I say more?)
Mary Blaize - Kate Rusby (a lighthearted silly song - and Kate Rusby is awesome)
Newry Town - Katie McMahon (that's Katie of Riverdance fame. She's also my voice teacher)
Did you Sleep Well? - Crooked Still (great bluegrass - love Crooked Still)
Fireflies - Owl City (just plain happy music)

So I slept in too late. I'm tired of the rain. I haven't ridden my bike and am behind in reaching my 50 mile goal for the week. I'm still in my pajamas and don't feel like I've done anything constructive yet today.

But maybe I have. I'm writing. I'm home with my family. I'm listening to some music. I'm smiling and feeling pretty happy on this rainy day - and some days I think that's enough.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Bit of Bling for this Bicyclist

I honestly don't think of myself as a girly-girl. I like playing with power tools. I fly airplanes and tend to do activities, like bicycling, that are male dominated. I seldom look at fashion magazines, usually wear a t-shirt and jeans and don't bother with much makeup. That said, I do have an affinity for coordinating my bike accessories, for the color turquoise, for pretty fabrics, nice dresses and for a little bling in my life.

My favorite little bits of bling are cute charms and beads made out of bottle caps that were created by a friend of mine, Cathy Collision, who owns a bead store, Glass Garden Beads (I wrote a story about Cathy and her Bottle Cap Beads that you can read if you click here). I stopped in the shop today to pick up a bottle cap charm they made for me and noticed some cool new jewelry they made out of enamel pieces and bottle caps. Guess what? Some of the enamel pieces were shaped like sprockets and, even better, some were turquoise!
My new pendant - made from an enamel "sprocket" and a Fat Tire bottle cap "flower"

I couldn't help myself, I had to have one of the cool little sprocket pieces and turn it into some sort of pendant. With Heather's help (she makes way cool jewelry-www.lawrenzjewelry.com) I picked out a "sprocket" and a flower piece made from a Fat Tire Ale bottle cap (New Belgium Brewing) and Heather put together a pendant for me. It matches my bike, my helmet, my new jersey and the cycling sunglasses I want to buy. It also matches my iPhone case, my computer, my airplane (a 1955 Piper Pacer, cream with turquoise trim), the paint in my music room and my Makita cordless drill.
A happy me wearing my new pendant and matching bike jersey.
Note: I am so happy with my new pendant that I forgot to make my bed.

That's an awful lot of matching for a woman who does not consider herself a girly-girl. I think I'd better go mow the lawn with my lawn tractor or chop some wood to balance things out.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

50 Miles a Week

I like a challenge, I guess, and am missing the accountability of the 30 Days of Biking challenge I did in April so I decided to set a goal of riding 50 miles each week. Fifty miles is peanuts for some riders but a pretty good number for me, I think. Fifty miles a week works out to 200 miles per month and when you work in the 200 miles I've already put on my bike, a thousand miles by the end of September!
The 50 miles a week goal seemed reasonable when I set it but I've already discovered that life can get in the way and even a reasonable goal can feel, well, unreasonable. I planned to kick off my 50 mile goal with a nice 18 mile ride with Owen on Monday morning but before I could suit up and go my mom called and asked if I would go to the ER with her and my dad. Of course I would go, I told her, my bike ride could wait until after our trip to the ER. 
What happened to Dad? Long story short Dad fell from a ladder Saturday morning and bonked his head.   The ambulance took him to the nearby hospital where they determined he had a concussion and, after checking him out, sent him home to rest. He rested but then his back started to hurt really bad. So we took him to the ER Monday. The place was packed and we had to wait a long time to get seen. Finally the doctor checked Dad over, ordered x-rays and discovered that Dad has a compression fracture in his T12 vertebrae. No wonder he was in pain! Despite the fact that Dad was miserable, one of his biggest worries while we waiting in the ER was that I wasn't getting a chance to ride my bike. That was awfully sweet of him - he's the kind of guy who looks out for other people more than himself.
Dad actually sitting still - Christmas 2009
After the day in the ER I dropped my parents off at home and drove myself home. I was exhausted and decided not to ride. Tuesday morning I woke and still felt too wiped out and stressed to ride so I did what I often do when I'm stressed - I cleaned. I suppose biking would have been a good stress reliever (though it was pouring rain much of the day) but I ended up cleaning my room from top to bottom. It felt great to have it done but I didn't get any miles in towards my 50 mile goal. 
So today I decided I needed to ride at least 13 miles. I got up, took Rose to school, took Rocket (our 6 month old pup) to the dog park, wrote, put some food in the crockpot for dinner...and at some point I started wondering if I was putting off my ride. I think I was and I think it's in part because I get kind of scared about riding on my own on the road.  I have some theories on this but I'll write about them some other day. I do think it's kind of funny, though, that I have a road bike and I'm afraid of riding on roads.
Oh well. I told myself I had to get out and ride and even though it was raining a bit I got on my bike and rode 8.4 then rode again later in the day to get in thirteen. Thirteen miles down, 37 more miles to ride by Saturday. I'm thinking the best way to make sure I get my miles in is to ride right away in the morning. Geez, I'm not a morning person but I have a full day tomorrow so morning it will have to be.
p.s. - Dad, by the way, is doing okay. His pain is more under control and Mom says he is resting well. The hardest thing in the weeks to come will be making sure he rests. He doesn't sit still well - sort of like me.